Time to follow Enga governor’s lead

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday February 12th, 2014

 THERE is no doubt that the O’Neill Government’s free education policy has had a greater impact on Papua New Guineans than any other government initiative since the start of the new millennium.

Despite some teething prob­lems, doubts and criticisms, the policy has been a roaring success since it was implemented in 2012.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said at the time it was his belief that providing free education was the key to ensuring a better future for citizens. “Educating our children means that we are creating a path for our country and developing the leaders of tomorrow. Without an educated population, we will only continue to have issues with high unemployment, high crime rates and low morale driven by people unable to secure jobs.”

Two years on he is riding on the success of the policy and even proposing to legislate to make education compulsory.

Acting Education Minister James Marape is ecstatic and told the National Leader’s Summit in Port Moresby on Monday the enrolment rate in government schools had increased to 78 per cent this year – 4 per cent up from last year. Marape attributed the higher enrolment figure to the free education policy.

O’Neill and Marape should be thankful to some of their parliamentary colleagues who have been dishing out funds to pay for the education of children from their electorates.

Among them are Chimbu MPs Mogerema Wei (Karamui-Nomane) and Wera Mori (Chuave) who this week put big smiles on the faces of parents.

Wei has helped about 700 students with K900,000 in school fee subsidies from his District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds for this year. The students are from the Karamui, Sol and Nomane local level government areas.

The funds cover students attending secondary, technical vocational education training (TVET), universities and private institutions in PNG and overseas.

Last year, Wei assisted 400 students with K600,000 and plans to allocate K1 million next year.

Likewise, Mori has provided K300,000 in tuition fee assistance to Chuave students attending tertiary institutions, including universities throughout the country. He distributed K100,000 each to the three local level governments in his electorate.

The MP, a geologist by profession, has placed high priority in developing human resource in the Chuave district. 

Undoubtedly, the leader who has been at the forefront of free education is En­ga Governor Peter Ipatas. He initiated the concept 17 years ago and has been res­ponsible for the education of hundreds of Engans, many of whom are now enjoying well-paid employment in the public and private sectors.

The governor has announced the disbursement of K10 million to schools in the province to meet students’ tuition fees. The funds are part of the K34 million that the Government has allocated in this year’s budget for students in Enga under its tuition-free policy.

Ipatas told hundreds of people in Wabag last Friday, including parents and students, to take ownership of the education programmes to achieve quality education. “The challenge is now on the education authorities and the parents, including school governing bodies, to work hard to achieve quality education.”

The governor’s foresight and achievement have earned Enga the opportunity to pilot the change in distribution of the Government’s education subsidy funds from the province instead of Waigani.

Other provincial governors should follow Ipatas’ lead, particularly his outstanding management of Enga’s home-grown education policy. They should take heed of the Enga government’s requirement for students to achieve high grades so that they can continue to benefit from the free tuition fees.

Parents are obliged to ensure that their children achieve high grades in school so as to justify the money spent on their education by the national and provincial governments as well as individual MPs.

After all, government funds spent on free education are derived from individual and company taxpayers who would like to see that their contributions to the state coffers are well spent to benefit the country.